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David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
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Date: May 1, 2003

Seal of the Unified Court System
Chief Judge Judith Kaye's Special Law Day Message
Today Law Day is celebrated in these pages, and throughout the state and nation. This year's theme, chosen months ago by the American Bar Association - "Celebrate Our Freedom: Independent Courts Protect our Liberties" - has particular resonance given tensions around the world, as well as in our own backyard. Locally, I refer to the arrest last week of a judge and court staff, among others, on charges of official corruption, and the announcement of a Kings County grand jury investigation into Supreme Court nominations.

The night of the arrest, a young man interviewed on the street expressed his despair by asking: 

"If you can't trust judges, who can you trust?"  I suspect my colleagues on the bench feel much the same way - deeply shaken by charges of this sort. We share that young man's sense that we above all others must have impeccable integrity and complete impartiality. That is our bedrock promise for the privilege of sitting in judgment on others, reviewing acts of the other branches of government, and shaping the law that guides society. Individual integrity and impartiality are essential to the judicial independence we celebrate today.

Obviously I cannot comment on the charges. I would, however, like to say a few words about the dedicated judges and court staff who are true to and worthy of the public trust. No one is more upset, more saddened by the shadow these charges cast than the people who strive every single day to ensure that the citizens of this state receive justice in our courts.

Our statewide dockets are astronomical, numbering in the millions, among them the most difficult, heart-wrenching, most complex human problems imaginable, handled with the dispatch, diligence and high professionalism they fully deserve. The proceedings conducted annually in Kings County alone are equivalent to the entire state court docket of, for example, Connecticut, or Oklahoma or Tennessee.

That we overwhelmingly discharge our public trust in exemplary fashion is, of course, not our standard. Our goal is higher than that. And we are committed to rooting out any and all misconduct. But as we anguish over the headlines, I want to tip my hat to our nation's founders for their design of an independent judiciary that protects our liberties, and to the men and women of the Unified Court System who give everyday, real-life significance to that cherished value.

The above text was published in the New York Law Journal on Thursday, May 1, 2003 (page 2, column 3).

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